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2021 Young Award Winner: Emilee Smith

Four years of learning, working and serving at Arkansas Tech University transformed Emilee Smith of Rogers into something she couldn’t have envisioned when she arrived on campus.

She’s a leader.

“All the things I’ve been involved in…the situations I’ve been placed in…they’ve put me in positions where I’ve learned so many skills that taught me more lessons than I probably would ever have picked up elsewhere,” said Smith. “Some of them were scary. Some of them were much needed. Some of them were fun. Learning more about myself led to this overall growth. I’m more confident in my abilities as a leader now.”

Smith will be presented as the 2021 Margaret Young Award winner for most outstanding senior female at ATU during spring commencement on Saturday, May 8.

“I’m so overwhelmed with gratitude,” said Smith, a political science major with a minor in Spanish. “I am honored to receive it. I think I am even more grateful for all the experiences that led me here.”

Those experiences include what Smith describes as a “lonely freshman year.” During her first two semesters at ATU, she remained in her comfort zone and refrained from meeting new people.

“By my sophomore year, I knew that had to change,” said Smith. “I got two campus jobs, got involved with Greek life and joined different organizations on campus. I never looked back.”

Smith helped establish and coordinate volunteer efforts that aided food insecure members of the ATU community. Her service to others extended to work with the ATU Presidential Leadership Cabinet, as a resident assistant and as an orientation leader for incoming students.

“When you have the ability, the time and the skill set…and then you see the need in the community…it becomes a question of why wouldn’t you apply yourself,” said Smith. “It’s all I’ve ever known.”

She served as president for Alpha Sigma Tau sorority and was voted ATU’s outstanding new Greek member of the year in 2018. Smith gained induction to the National Society of Collegiate Scholars and Order of Omega. She was active in Student Activities Board, Pre-Law Society, University Honors and Model United Nations.

“(ATU) is the most friendly, welcoming campus that you’ll ever walk on,” said Smith. “It’s the type of place where you walk out and every day you see someone you know but you also see someone new. It’s the most comfortable place.”

As she completes her Arkansas Tech experience, maybe it’s that sense of comfort that signals to Smith it’s time to extend her boundaries again.

She has been accepted to the University of Nebraska School of Law. She hopes to pursue a career that will allow her to assist rural communities and be of service to the growing Hispanic community in Arkansas.

“I want to help people, and the quickest way I can do that and the way that my skills are most applicable is in the field of law,” said Smith. “I am most interested in immigration law. Where I’m from there’s a very large immigrant population, so I’d like to go home and use it there. If you ask my mom, she’d say I wanted to be a lawyer since I was 4 because she says I am a very good arguer.”

There’s at least one point Smith won’t argue: Arkansas Tech University has prepared her for anything that follows.

“I don’t think I can think of a bad time at Tech,” said Smith. “As it sits in my brain, Tech has so many positive associations. All the people I’ve met here have been amazing. It’s going to be the hardest goodbye for me. I’m very sad about leaving. I have a younger sister who is here for one more year, and I’m going to milk that because I’ll be coming back to see her and support her senior year.”